The American Research Center in Eygpt

Archaeological Impetus

Archaeological Impetus

The area of Sheikh Abd el Qurna and el Khokha is probably one of the most intensively archaeologically examined sites of the world. Despite this fact, and prior to the QSI project, we knew very little about it from an archaeological and anthropological point of view after the time of Egypt’s New Kingdom (1550-1069 BCE). Of particular relevance to this project is the fact that we knew very little about the area’s most recent phase of habitation. Significant exceptions to this rule take the form of work done by Ms. Caroline Simpson, Dr. Kees van der Spek, and Dr. Zoltán Fábián.

Example of traditional mud construction within the hamlets prior to demolition. Photo courtesy of Caroline Simpson.

The most recent phase of habitation forms the final stratigraphic layer of the area, and was worthy of investigation for a number of reasons. The remains of modern habitation tell the latest phase in the story of human interaction with a site that has been important to, and used by, people for thousands of years. If we are to understand the area, this layer of information cannot be ignored. In addition, aspects of Qurnawi culture provided abundant insight into the traditional practices of Luxor’s rural populations.

A Hajj painting. Photo courtesy of Yarko Kobylecky.

These populations and their practices have been changing rapidly over the past two generations. Due to the long-standing desire to remove the area’s structures, government bans were placed on building materials that could be used by the local population in the construction and repair of their buildings. These bans appear to have been at least partially enforced.

The result of these proscriptions at the time of the demolition was the retention of traditional building materials and crafts that had been dying out in surrounding villages. Many people within surrounding villages, for example, began to use concreate more, and mud increasingly less as an every day construction material. Another notable aspect of Qurnawi culture that existed prior to the demolition were the Hajj paintings that adorned many of the houses, and which formed the subject of a number of exhibitions outside of Egypt.

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